Park Rangers in Redwood National Park are battling against redwood burl poachers who illegally cut the valuable sections from the ancient trees. The burls are protrusions on the trees that feature wood that is delicately patterned, making it ideal for furniture. The poachers seek the wood due to the astounding price it can fetch. A well-formed piece can weigh several hundred pounds, making it hard to transport and store. Still, given that the burls can fetch up to several thousand dollars, many have been motivated to try.
Locally known as the “midnight burlers,” redwood burl poachers are said to be motivated by a lack of income opportunities in Northern California and vices such as drug addictions.
Though the poachers usually access the burl and remove it without cutting down the whole tree, park Rangers say that a 400 year old tree was chopped down last year so that poachers could get to a 500 pound burl which was 60 feet up. This was the first time that Rangers recorded a tree being felled as a result of burl poaching.
However, the removal of the burl is not without its consequences. In The process poachers cut into the tree’s cambium layer, making its more susceptible to whether, disease, and insects.
California redwoods grow in a very limited section of the country, situated primarily in a narrow sliver of land near the California-Oregon border and in Big Sur. The trees are some of the oldest living organisms on earth, and have been known to live for over 2000 years under the right conditions.
The Park Rangers investigating these crimes have their hands full. Just 12 Rangers must cover the entire 132,000-acre Redwoods National Park. But, their tenacious pursuit of poachers has yielded dividends. For example, in mid-May a man was arrested on suspicion of taking burls from redwoods in the park.